Archive for: February, 2009

Friday Weird Science: Don't like your men hairy? Don't let them in bed!

Feb 27 2009 Published by under Friday Weird Science

The other title of this post is "what happens when you leave a guy alone on a desert island for a few weeks", and the other OTHER title of this post is "people who are obsessive enough to measure their body hair".
But what, you may ask, is the real title of the PAPER? Anonymous. "Effects of sexual activity on beard growth in man." Nature, 1970.
Historical science is often so awesome and so crazy, in so many ways. This paper comes to me courtesy of Monica at Purdue, and to her courtesy of Dr. John Anderson's Endocrinology class (Bio 559) at Purdue. The more I see of the syllabus, the more I REALLY wish I had a) gone to Purdue, and b) taken this class. Because I think I might have been studying endocrinology today.
Aside from being some wacky science, this paper earns additional wackiness from being self-performed, as well as being a self-performed measurement of facial hair. And, considering it was a case study, he did some good controls, and kept some very good data. I'm pretty impressed.
Also, this is an example of a good quote I heard from the Nature podcast a while back. "The best discoveries happen not when you say 'eureka', but when you're staring into a microscope and say 'hey, that's funny...'" And when you spend a lot of time alone on a desert island, you have a lot of time to notice things that are funny.

Continue Reading »

22 responses so far

On Sciencewoman's teaching experiences and pacing of lectures

Feb 26 2009 Published by under Academia

Teaching is a new part of my life. After my disaster postdoc I've had to switch gears and realign my expectations a bit; currently my career consists of tech duty in a lab to maintain my research skills and maybe get some papers out, and also expanding my CV by teaching. To date I've taught a summer Intro Bio with lab at the community college, 2 sections of a basic biology course and human bio in the fall (also at the CC), and finally this semester something near my field- Biopsych at the local state uni. Like sciencewoman, my biggest problem has been pacing.

I thought that putting most of my slides on Blackboard would solve these issues, but apparently it didn't. I suppose something like pod-casting the class could also work to help the slower note-takers. So could posting all of my notes (not just ~50%) on Blackboard, but I'd like to keep strong incentives for people to actually come to class.
One thing I'd like to do is teach them how to take better notes in less time than it takes to copy things word for word from the slides. I've thought about doing a lecture where I have the powerpoint up on the screen, and I'm also taking notes as I go along on the adjacent board. Has anyone tried this? Or have you found other effective ways to teach note-taking skills?

I've run into this scenario. The problem is that students always try to get you to "just post the lecture before class" because it would be "really helpful" for "taking notes", and then for some reason once you start "being helpful" they stop "showing up". I understand how having some sort of outline/format ahead of time is useful, though, so I've taken to making my entire powerpoint as image-based as possible. Literally, I'll have 30 slides for a 2 hour lecture (I'm teaching one night a week, currently). The slides are almost entirely image-based. The students can print them out beforehand so they don't have to spend too much time drawing the pics during lecture. Salient points, processes, and important vocabulary I will write or redraw on the board as I lecture. Usually there's 2 or 3 points per slide to discuss, which I'll cover while the students finish writing. I find this method keeps the pace relatively steady and keeps the students focused on the lecture instead of furiously scribbling every little detail in their notebooks. The students who write slower don't feel as pressured to hurry, and the faster students don't get bored waiting for the others to catch up.
Then, after the lecture, I'll post my version of my powerpoint with the entirety of my talking points inserted as notes for each slide. Here's the catch though-- you gotta post the new powerpoint unreliably so the students don't just show up and zone out for the lecture. Don't always put it up the very next day. Sometimes wait a few days. Maybe a week. Keep it kinda random. I find that almost all students will still take their own notes in class, but also get the benefit of my more detailed presentation later on. They just won't know when my notes are coming, and hence won't rely on me.
That last part may sound like a dirty trick, but some of the keys to learning are 1. multiple exposures to the material over time and 2. seeing the material presented in multiple formats. This accomplishes both.

16 responses so far

The End of An Addiction: could baclofen be the cure we're looking for?

Feb 26 2009 Published by under Addiction

About a week ago, a prof in my MRU loaned me a book he'd just read, saying it would be right up my alley. He was very right. I couldn't put it down. It's already changed a great deal about the way that I think about addiction, as well as the way I think about finding a cure.
The book was "The end of my addiction" by Olivier Ameisen. Half case report, half memoir, Olivier Ameisen was a well-known cardiologist doing some crazy good work in New York. Unfortunately, he was also an alcoholic. After more than a decade of broken friendships, joblessness, and near-death experiences, he managed to end his dependence on alcohol using a drug known as baclofen.
Addiction people will never say that someone is cured. Anyone is, at best, "recovering". People are alcoholics or crack heads even if it's been years or decades since they had their last dose. This is because they are merely abstinent. A single dose of that drug, or even a visit to places where they previously let the good times roll can spark off a huge craving that can trigger the entire cycle again, something a recovering addict must always be on the watch for.
But what if you could cure it? What if you could just take a pill and make it all go away?

Continue Reading »

92 responses so far

The most annoying love song ever written: this one's for the mosquitoes

Feb 25 2009 Published by under Natural Sciences

Actually, I would like to dedicate this post to the lovely Stephanie Zvan of Almost Diamonds. This is because Stephanie recently sent Sci her blogging muse: an entire box of dark chocolate Moose Munch!!!!!! Moose Munch is indeed Sci's muse, and could not have come at a better time. Stephanie Zvan is awesome for any number of reasons (I particularly recommend her short stories) , but sending food in the mail definitely adds a little extra.
Unfortunately, this means that last night was spent suffering the effects of a Moose Munch overdose. But today Sci is back up and rolling...literally. And to you, Stephanie, the bringer of my mental muse, I give you...a love song. In major fifths. At 600 and 400 Hz. Cator et al. "Harmonic convergence in the love songs of the dengue vector mosquito" Science, 2009.
This post brought to you by Stephanie Zvan. And moose munch. Also kilts, rum, and sugar highs.
I'm sure we all know about mosquitoes. I know I cringe at the very sound of that high-pitched whine. If you're delicious (like Sci), then you KNOW that every time you hear those nasty ear-splitting notes of horror, you can give up, because bug spray or not, you're going to be scratching for days. But to a lady mosquito, what sounds to us like a teeth-gritting shrill is the hottest love song on the planet.

Continue Reading »

9 responses so far

What happens when Sci has a life

Feb 24 2009 Published by under Blog Carnivals

Every so often, Sci wishes she had a life outside the lab. So then Mr. SiT takes her away from it all for a weekend. This is super fabulous, and Sci has a wonderful time, coming back refreshed and rejeuvenated to...
...her overflowing email
...her hungry cat
...her overflowing desk
and in the heat of all this, and trying to make up for wonderfully well-spent time, and caffeinate enough to get everything done, she misses things.
Things like the fact that the next edition of Giant's Shoulders went up! Dr. Laden was kind enough to include us even though I was an idiot and didn't submit in time. There's some good stuff in there. I especially recommend the post on the giant killer lungfish (I need a few of these for my army when I take over the world), as well as two great posts on Francis Bacon from The Intersection.
And the next issue of Encephalon went up at the Neurocritic! We're also in this one for our post on the mouse that couldn't get high. I really like that Neurocritic did with the carnival, it's really obvious that they read everything they included very closely. Rockin'.
Oooooh, one more thing. Dr. Isis has posted a FABULOUS response to a letter on grad school interviews. Sci just took the n00bs through their interviews here at MRU. Perhaps at some point I will post some advice of my own from a grad student perspective. Her advice is excellent and I hope was really helpful.
And now, back to burning the after-midnight magic. This whole training to be a science rockstar thing is hard work.

6 responses so far

Depression Post 3: Studying Depression in the Lab

Feb 23 2009 Published by under Neuroscience

Welcome to depression post three! Previously I covered the symptoms and etiology of depression, and some of the most common antidepressant medications and how they work. Now I'd like to go into some of the research behind it. After all, it's not like we just grab a depressed person and say "here, take this and call me in the morning". Every new drug that comes out on the market has to go through rigorous clinical testing to determine whether or not it works, and just as important, whether or not it is safe. And even then, drug companies and the FDA make mistakes.
This post (to save me writing another 2,000 words at a time) is going to focus on the way we study depression (along with other psychiatric disorders) using animal behavioral models, particularly rodent models. But of course, you can't put a mouse on a couch and ask it how it feels about its mother. What researchers have found is that there are ways of studying the efficacy of traditional antidepressants. So rodent tests for depression are not so much tests for depression so much as they are screening for possible antidepressant therapies.

Continue Reading »

14 responses so far

Friday Weird Science: When it feels really good to brush your teeth

Feb 20 2009 Published by under Friday Weird Science

This is another post along the lines of the odd things that get off certain members of the humans species. I'm sure some of us wish we were these people, but in some cases (like this one), it's not a fortunate as you might suppose. Chuang, et al. "Tooth-brushing epilepsy with ictal orgasms". Seizure, 2004, 13, 179-182.
This post brought to you by the bibliography of Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach. Also brought to you by the letter L, and by a very tired Scicurious who needs ice cream.

Continue Reading »

13 responses so far

Fund this R01 This Time!!

Feb 19 2009 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

When Sci gets in a parody-ing mood, all sorts of things come out. Evil things. Things like this. I blame Isis for what is about to follow. Her love of Spears is well-known, though I imagine the goddess will never have to plead for funding in this manner.

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Why I'm a Scientist

Feb 18 2009 Published by under Activism

You know that huge "25 things" meme going around Facebook? I hate those things. I've got something like 20 notes now that have me "tagged". I kind of want to fill it out, and it would look something like this:
1) I hate memes
2) I really hate memes where people try too hard to be witty
3) I think this meme sucks
...and so on.
But once in a while I come across a meme that I think is worthy of Sci's time and attention (my attention is in fact very cheap and easily caught by things that are shiny. My time, however, requires something like three week's notice, a follow-up email, and a personal organizer. Sci got a lot goin' on.) This one isn't a meme really, it's more a question going around the blogs:
Why am I a Scientist?
I like questions that are not yet memes, and this one is certainly thought-provoking, esp as I get to a rather life-changing segment of my career. For several great takes on this question, I'd recommend two of my fav peeps, JLK, Leigh (the kind of scientist Sci always wishes she was), the ever awesome Physioprof, and Ambivalent Academic (who started it all, and I'm really looking forward to the next few posts. I think Ambivalent Academic might actually be my mind-twin or something).
So this question got me thinking. A lot. Why AM I a scientist?

Continue Reading »

17 responses so far

Depression Part 2: Pharmacotherapies

Feb 16 2009 Published by under Neuroscience

In my previous depression post, I talked about the symptoms and characterization of depression. In this one, I want to talk about what's out there to treat it.

Continue Reading »

21 responses so far

Older posts »